What is intuitive eating for weight management?
This is a complicated question. Intuitive eating is an evidenced based approach to eating that was originally designed to help chronic dieters get back in tune with their body’s needs, instead of relying on external food rules to determine what, when, and how much to eat. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you probably know that getting some of those rules out of your head is tough, even when you’ve actively stopped trying to lose or manage weight.
When using intuitive eating to guide you, you are using your body’s messages and cues through something called “interoceptive awareness”. Interoceptive awareness is the ability to perceive physical sensations that arise within your body (Tribole&Resch 2020). There is a growing body of work that shows that interoceptive awareness is profoundly implicated in your physical and mental well-being (Quandt et. Al 2018). This suggests that you are in tune with your body and eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are full.
Intuitive eating also suggests that if you’re not hungry at let’s say 11:30 am, but your next opportunity to eat might not be until 3:00 pm, you should go ahead and eat so that you are not starving by 3pm and over eat. Intuitive eating does not focus on body size and direct weight loss. The goal is to feel the best that you can feel both physically and emotionally regardless of size or shape.
Can intuitive eating help you manage your weight?
Now that you know what intuitive eating is, let’s try to answer the hot button question: Can intuitive eating help manage your weight? At its core, this theory is not about weight loss, but using the principles that support it, can actually help manage your weight. It can be tricky though when you are trying to make peace with your body but also want to feel lighter in it. The key is for weight management to be a passive byproduct of the process and not the main goal. Peace with food is essential. Removing the guilt around any type of food is vital. Once you give up on formal “dieting”, you will find yourself eating the food your body actually needs and the desire to experience regular movement in your life. As your thoughts about your eating and your body change, you will experience a more peaceful feeling instead of the chronic background food anxiety that hovers over you with every food choice. If you continue to focus on weight loss as a goal, you’ll get tied up in the diet mentality that ultimately doesn’t serve you.
Here are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating to help you manage your weight:
1. Reject The Diet Mentality:
Reject all diet books and magazines that offer hopes of losing weight quickly, easily and permanently.
2. Honor Your Hunger:
Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. You might otherwise trigger a primal drive to overeat.
3. Make Peace With Food:
Stop fighting with your food! Give yourself permission to eat all foods. If you don’t, you risk intense feelings of deprivation that can lead to uncontrollable hunger, cravings and often binge eating.
4. Challenge The Food Police:
Reject the voices in your head that certain foods are “good” or “bad”. By doing so, you reject the unreasonable rules that diet culture has created.
5. Discover The Satisfaction Factor:
Eat what you really want in an environment that is inviting and pleases you. The pleasure you derive is a powerful force to keep you satisfied and content without the cravings.
6. Feel Your Fullness:
Listen to your body’s signals that tell you that you are comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating to ask yourself how the food tastes and what your current hunger level is.
7. Cope With Emotions With Kindness:
Recognize that food restriction can trigger loss of control which can lead to emotional eating. Recognize that anxiety, anger, boredom and loneliness will not be fixed with food. The problem will still be there after a binge due to emotional eating.
8. Respect Your Body:
Accept your genetic blueprint. It is unrealistic to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and critical of your body size or shape.
9. Movement By Feeling the Difference:
Forget strict exercise regiments. Shift your focus on how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how good you feel with exercise it will be easier to stick with a routine.
10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition:
You don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good.
How to Use the Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating:
Get started with one principle and see how you feel. As Resch and Tribole so aptly put it: “The road to Intuitive Eating is like a long-term mutual fund. Over time there will be a return on the investment, in spite of the daily fluctuations of the stock market. It is normal and to be expected”.
“The road to Intuitive Eating is like a long-term mutual fund. Over time there will be a return on the investment, in spite of the daily fluctuations of the stock market. It is normal and to be expected”.
The goal should be the “process” or the number of steps or operations to get you to feeling at peace with your relationship with food. Focusing on the end result (strict weight loss), can make you feel overwhelmed and you may end up sabotaging the process. Making small changes and learning from your experiences will allow you to move forward as an Intuitive Eater and allow you to get to your health goals which can include managing your weight, peacefully. This process takes time and patience. It is a marathon with many adjustments along the way, not a sprint to the finish line!
If you need a guiding hand in your weight loss journey, I am here for you. I offer personalized weight management nutrition services that can help you stop the diets and start managing your weight peacefully.